By Dalton Del Don
Kurt Warner – The former two-time MVP was already outplaying Matt Leinart, but now with Leinart (collarbone) sidelined 6-8 weeks, Warner has the quarterback job all to himself. Once Anquan Boldin (hip) returns to the lineup, Warner, who's averaging 8.5 YPA, will have two top-flight wide receivers at his side. He’s a nice fit for coach Ken Whisenhunt’s system, and the NFC West typically features more shootouts than it does defensive battles. Warner can now be considered a No. 1 fantasy quarterback.
Antonio Gates – Five weeks into the season, Gates is on pace for 128 catches, 1,565 yards and 10 touchdowns. Tight end isn’t exactly as scarce as it once was, but those numbers would likely put Gates above all wide receivers as well. Gates lines up outside so frequently, he is essentially a wideout, and there’s little reason to expect a big drop from his early season production. He’s simply one of the most valuable fantasy commodities out there.
Brandon Jacobs – While it was disconcerting for Jacobs owners to see Derrick Ward remain involved in the gameplan, Ward left with a persisting ankle injury, and Jacobs looked 100 percent recovered from his sprained knee. Jacobs finished Sunday with 100 yards rushing (5.0 YPC) and a touchdown, and he had another score called back on a questionable holding penalty. He displayed power and the ability to take it to the outside. With the Giants offense clicking, Jacobs could post big fantasy numbers.
Greg Jennings – After an impressive start to his rookie season, Jennings battled injuries and inconsistency leading into this year. However, he’s really turned it on lately, scoring in three consecutive contests. With the Packers running game struggling and Brett Favre revived, Jennings’ numbers should really benefit. Teammate DeShawn Wynn experienced a similar rise in value, as he might be the new No. 1 ballcarrier in Green Bay’s backfield.
Kevin Jones – After being non-existent during the first half Sunday, Jones totaled 65 yards on 13 touches after halftime. Tatum Bell has failed to impress, so expect him to get phased out of the gameplan. Detroit has a Week 6 bye, so Jones has two weeks to get closer to full strength. Expect him to return as starter and get the majority of the carries moving forward. Remember, he was a Top-10 fantasy player before going down last year, so now might be the last time to “buy-low” here.
Dallas Clark - As long as Marvin Harrison (knee) is out and Clark is healthy, consider only Antonio Gates and maybe Kellen Winslow better fantasy options at tight end. Clark has five touchdowns in his last four games, already matching his career-high. He is essentially the team’s third wide receiver, often lining up in the slot. Expect continued success, even when Harrison returns.
Kenton Keith - Joseph Addai should return from a shoulder injury after the team’s Week 6 bye, but Keith’s performance Sunday makes him a mandatory own in all fantasy leagues. He was a more-than-capable fill-in, and the potent offense just can’t help but produce big numbers from whoever is playing running back.
Jason Wright – Wright’s value depends on the severity of Jamal Lewis’ injury, but it looks like he’d be the main guy in Cleveland’s backfield if it proves to be serious. The Browns offense has been a pleasant surprise this season, so Wright is worth stashing at the moment.
Ben Watson – With defenses forced to key on Randy Moss, Watson has been a huge beneficiary. He broke the century mark receiving Sunday and now has five touchdowns this season. New England’s passing attack is so prolific there should continue to be plenty of yards and scores to go around. Watson is a fantastic red-zone target.
Larry Fitzgerald – Fitzgerald has 19 catches for 256 yards the last two weeks. He has at least 85 receiving yards in each of the last four games. He might have to start sharing some of the pie with Anquan Boldin’s (hip) imminent return, but the entire Arizona passing offense deserves an upgrade with Kurt Warner now the starter.
Selvin Young – Young only totaled 20 yards Sunday, but he’s a must-own in every fantasy league with Travis Henry’s murky legal situation. If Henry is suspended, Young will become Denver’s lead back, making him an extremely valuable fantasy asset. He’s averaged 8.6 YPC this season while flashing solid receiving skills. There’s a real good chance he becomes the next great Denver running back who seemingly came from nowhere.
Earnest Graham – His numbers during Week 5 were certainly nothing to write home about, but with Michael Pittman’s serious leg injury, the backfield duties currently fall into Graham’s hands. Expect Tampa Bay to bring in competition, but any new back would have to learn the system before getting significant playing time, leaving Graham to receive the bulk of the work for a relatively productive Buccaneers offense.
Michael Turner – Turner broke loose Sunday, rushing for 147 yards and a touchdown on just 10 carries. Still, he got most of the work when the game’s score was out of hand, and LaDainian Tomlinson is still the man in San Diego’s backfield. Turner should be owned in all fantasy leagues, but it’s still going to take an injury for him to become truly valuable.
Calvin Johnson – Johnson has basically been limited for two and a half games with a back injury. It’s just a bruise, so the Week 6 bye comes at a perfect time for him to rest and return at 100 percent in Week 7. He was impressive before the injury, and Detroit throws with more frequency than any team in the league, so Johnson is going to have serious fantasy value in the second half of the season.
Vince Young – The Titans have played well this year, but Young has been a fantasy disappointment to date. LenDale White's ermergence as the team’s goal-line runner hasn’t helped, and neither has Young’s inaccuracy as a passer. He’s looked good at times, but the 3:5 TD:INT ratio and 5.8 YPA season numbers are pretty ugly. Still, he’s started just 17 career games, so some growing pains are understandable. Expect improvement the rest of the season with more rushing yards and touchdowns to come.
Shaun Alexander – Sunday wasn’t all his fault, as Alexander wasn’t used much after Seattle fell behind early and was forced to pass (just five rushes after the first quarter). Still, he hasn't scored for three consecutive weeks and the 2.3 YPC is more trend than aberration. Alexander has gotten fewer than 4.0 YPC during 12 of his last 15 games.
Thomas Jones – Poor offensive line play has a lot to do with it, but Jones is really struggling with his new team. He’s getting just 3.3 YPC this season and has yet to reach the end zone. Leon Washington continues to take away touches (nine carries Sunday), and Jones has displayed an inability to break many tackles.
Jay Cutler – That’s nine consecutive games with an interception for Cutler, who is badly missing Javon Walker’s (knee) presence. Cutler’s 64.5 completion percentage and 7.6 YPA are solid, but he’s really struggling in the red zone and hasn’t thrown multiple touchdowns in six consecutive games. The future is still bright, but it looks like the learning curve might be a bit steeper than many anticipated.
Joey Harrington - Inconsistency continues to plague Harrington, who followed three terrific performances with a brutal effort Sunday. He averaged a miniscule 2.8 YPA in Week 5, leading to his benching in favor of Byron Leftwich. Harrington probably did enough beforehand to keep the starting job – and Leftwich wasn’t very good in his stead either – but his leash is obviously getting shorter.
Michael Pittman – He was set to see an increased workload after Carnell Williams went down for the season with a knee injury, but Pittman himself suffered a leg injury Sunday that will likely keep him out for 6-8 weeks.
Steve McNair – The 65.6 completion percentage is nice, but the 5.9 YPA reveals just how limited this passing game is with McNair at the helm. The dink-and-dunk offense has led to just two passing touchdowns from McNair, whose starting job has an expiration date.
Drew Brees – After last season’s MVP-type campaign, it made sense to remain patient with Brees’ slow start this year. Now, it’s time to look for alternative options. Brees has one touchdown pass while committing 11 turnovers this season. After 8.0 YPA last season, he’s at 5.2 this year. There’s no place for New Orleans’ offense to go from here but up, but with the loss of Deuce McAllister (knee) and the power running game that came with him, this offense looks like a shell of last year’s version. Teammate Marques Colston deserves a similar downgrade as well; after averaging 14.8 yards per catch last season, he’s at 9.8 this year and also tweaked his back Sunday.
Deion Branch – He suffered a sprained foot during Sunday’s game and was last seen wearing a protective boot. With D.J. Hackett (ankle) also sidelined, the Seattle passing attack would suffer if Branch is forced to miss additional time.
Chad Pennington – Rumblings of the Kellen Clemens era to begin have started to get a little louder after Pennington’s poor performance Sunday. He threw three interceptions, giving him five picks over the last two games. His lack of arm strength limits the playbook, and with every Jets loss, the team gets that much closer to looking toward the future, and the future is Clemens.
Article first appeared 10/8/07